I was enjoying the season – new songs, foam hands, 7-0 wins and all that – until this statement was released by the three co-chairmen in the early hours of Sunday morning. On the face of it, the situation seemed both dreadful and inexplicable. Some of the seemingly inexplicable parts of that statement have since been clarified by Mark Anderson’s conversation with the King of Kingston. (It’s essential viewing, and available to watch here if you haven’t seen it already.) Essentially, our much-heralded lease until 2033 is nothing of the sort: it contains a one-year break clause, and also contains a clause whereby we would be charged market rent from 2018 were the Wombles to move out. As such, voluntarily taking the option to leave Kingsmeadow suddenly seems much less inexplicable – but equally as dreadful.
But taking the statement, the video interview and other facts we now know into account, there are still a number of points that need answering, please:
1. Why was the lease signed? Mark talks in the interview about break clauses being “standard business practice”, which is true enough. But he then goes on to defend signing the lease with the one-year break clause by saying that the break clause could be good for “both parties”. He seems to have two justifications for this opinion. Firstly, in 2008, when the lease was signed, AFC Wimbledon were still in the Ryman League, and therefore such a quick move to Merton could not have been foreseen. This is disingenuous nonsense: maybe AFCW could have taken a couple of years longer to return to the football league, and therefore a new ground for them pushed back to nearer 2020 than 2018, but could there ever have been a situation where AFCW were floundering around in the lower non-leagues until 2033? Of course not. Mark’s second justification is that Kingstonian may have wanted to use the break clause – and lo and behold, we do! This is a circular argument: the only reason we now need to use the break clause because it exists. As much as the three co-chairmen may want to gloss over it, by signing that lease in 2008, they may very well have signed Kingstonian FC’s death warrant.
2. What has been going on since 2008?
a) Why have we been spending vast pots of cash each year on non-league journeymen in an effort to get promoted to the Conference South, when by getting promoted, all we would achieve is raising the bar for the standard of ground we’d have to build in a few years’ time? And why have we been spending all that money when if we’d taken £30k out of the budget each year we’d now have the start of a decent-sized stadium fund?
b) Why haven’t we been trying to engage the community and pursue larger gates if the end goal was a “community club”?
c) Why wasn’t the new stadium planning started in 2008 so that when push came to shove we’d be prepared and know how much money we’d need and what options were available?
d) Most of all, why weren’t supporters told the facts so we could do what we’re now, at the very very last minute, being asked to do – to help? Mark made a big play in the interview of saying fans weren’t offering to help. Well, err, why would we if we didn’t know the full facts? If I’d known since 2008 that the club I support was slowly dying, maybe I’d have offered to do something about it more than what I’ve already done over the past few years?
People may be reading this thinking, “what’s done is done and now it’s time to move on”. That is absolutely true. But for me, the future starts after these questions have been answered fully, because the answers are a big part of the future: do I want these three men to carry on running my football club or not when the dust has settled? Hopefully – and I really do mean that – there are good answers to the above questions, and Malcolm, Mark and John can continue to part-fund the club in the future, albeit in a different structure with much greater involvement from the supporters.